There has been a narrative around the Dallas Stars for nearly six years now -- that this is a franchise in desperate need of that true, elusive "No. 1 defenseman" and if that could just come around at some point then this whole rebuilding process would move much quicker and the Stars can once again rightfully ascend to their place at the top of the Western Conference.
As we've found out, however, the process of pulling off such a move is nigh impossible -- teams don't want to trade these types of defenseman or allow them to get to free agency. If one is moving, then the price has either been way too high for the Stars in the past or that the team just hasn't been in a position to bid for said players.
The Stars have taken steps the past few years to try and rebuild the defense almost completely, mostly by making it a priority through the draft. Yet despite the emergence of a player like John Klingberg (who could actually be that No. 1 player) this is a team that is still in desperate need of perhaps one player that could finally bring a true balance to the defensive unit -- and especially on the top pairing.
Who then? Where can the Stars find a hulking, physical defenseman who can eat big minutes and move the puck well and dole out punishments in front of Kari Lehtonen? Drafting is an option, but we've seen how fickle that can be. These types of players rarely, if ever hit free agency almost never get traded for less than a king's ransom.
Shea Weber is never going to be traded to the Dallas Stars. But what about Dion Phaneuf?
For the past month or so, as it's become clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs are heading into a complete rebuild, the Dallas Stars have been linked to the Toronto captain. After all, he fits almost exactly the type of player that the Stars could play next to Klingberg, and despite his struggles with the Leafs he's a big, physical defenseman who can move the puck and bring a much-needed edge to the blueline.
Except there's the big issue of Phaneuf's monstrous contract (he's in the first year of a seven-year contract that has an annual cap hit of $7 million) along with the enormous price the Stars -- or anyone -- would have to give up for him. Such a price can certainly be worth it if you're absolutely certain that Phaneuf is indeed the cure for all ills, but that is far from guaranteed at this point. It would be an incredible commitment for the Stars to have to make without ever being able to determine how he'd actually fit in Dallas -- that's a six-plus year gamble you're making on a player that has been pretty bad for a terrible Maple Leafs team the past few years.
Which is why it's never going to happen. The Dallas Stars are not going to trade for Dion Phaneuf, at least this season.
While national media types have continued to ring that bell about the Stars being interested in Phaneuf, us here in Dallas were being told quite the opposite. Our sources (and this has been echoed by Bob Sturm as well) have unequivocally stated that there is almost no chance of the Stars trading for that contract, at the price the Leafs would want. Such a trade just never seemed to make sense, and all of the rumors seemed to stem from the single fact that Stars GM Jim Nill and his front office were doing their diligence and looking into whether Phaneuf would make sense as a trade target.
Turns out, he doesn't. And this week, from Elliotte Friedman -- we have this:
Dallas GM Jim Nill would not comment, but it's believed the Stars considered a Phaneuf acquisition before deciding against it. It's a personal belief, but at some point this team is going to go after a horse on the blueline in the mold of a Johnny Boychuk or Brent Seabrook.
Which puts us back right in the same spot as we have always been.
So where does that leave the Stars for this season? This is a team that despite everything, is still very much in the fight for the playoffs. The odds are long and just where the Stars sit in the standings as we get closer to the trade deadline will -- as they always do -- dictate which direction Jim Nill goes.
The most likely outcome is the Stars don't make a big splash for a trade deadline for a defenseman and once again will wait to make the big moves over the summer -- when a player like Johnny Boychuk or Brent Seabrook could be available -- and would likely be a better long-term fit for the Dallas Stars, or at least won't require a seven-year commitment along with the trade pieces needed to acquire Phaneuf.
Could the Stars still boost the defense this season? Certainly, however the Marc Methot contract extension and Cody Franson trade has limited the options and likely driven the price sky-high for a player like Andrej Sekera. There are other options out there as well, and it's clear the Stars are certainly working hard to find the right acquisition to further improve the team, but once again it seems that a big trade in the middle of the season is unlikely to happen.
After all, it seems Nill does his best work in the summer anyway - although he might have underestimated the needs of the defense just a bit last year, it's clear he's working hard to figure out the next step in rebuilding the Stars as the team once again fights for the playoffs.
Dion Phaneuf isn't happening, at least not before March 2. Time to turn our attention elsewhere.